Coronarivus ‘sweeps through women-only wing at Evin jail’

German-Iranian national Nahid Taghavi is said to be one of eight inmates to test positive in women’s wing

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A German-Iranian woman held at Tehran's notorious Evin jail has contracted Covid-19 as the virus swept through a women-only wing, her daughter said.

Nahid Taghavi, 66, an architect who was arrested in October during a sweep of human rights activists, tested positive for the virus this week, said Mariam Claren. She said her mother's life was in imminent danger.

Seven women are already confirmed as having the virus among the 24-strong group of women, with all the others showing symptoms, Ms Taghavi told her daughter in a telephone call from the prison.

The 24 were kept in close proximity for days inside the jail even after some of the women started becoming ill, she said. The women sleep together in three rooms and share kitchen and washing facilities.

The first seven women, all Iranians, who tested positive are believed to include Sepideh Kashani, one of a group of eight members of a local environmental group who were arrested over spying claims.

The family of Ms Taghavi, who has diabetes and is the first dual national in the group to test positive, has appealed to the authorities for her to be released on bail. Campaigners are urging the German government to put pressure on Iran for her to be freed and helped to recover from the virus.

“She’s feeling so bad, she has a fever, she’s coughing all the time and her eyes are in so much pain that she cannot even read,” said Ms Claren.

Her mother told her that the outbreak started a fortnight ago but guards failed to do anything.

“Two or three of the women were feeling so bad they took tests for coronavirus that came back positive and they put them in quarantine,” she said.

“But the situation was getting worse and worse … all the women are feeling bad. The authorities are in lockdown and no one is caring for them.

“It was clear everyone was going to get it and they didn’t care,” she said.

Another of the women sent a message to her husband outside the prison claiming that she was told by a member of staff that “everybody is dying so you are going to die also”, Ms Claren said.

Iran, which has been hit by the deadliest outbreak in the Middle East, is struggling to cope with a new surge in cases with government offices and many banks shut in Tehran this week.

Anoosheh Ashoori, a British-Iranian, told The National last year in a series of recorded messages from prison about the chaotic response to the crisis within Evin. He has been jailed for 10 years on charges of spying, which have been dismissed by his family and supporters.

Ms Taghavi, who has campaigned for women’s rights in Iran, was arrested in October in Tehran and accused of involvement in banned political groups.

She has appeared in court with four other human rights and labour activists, including Mehran Raoof, a 64-year-old British-Iranian trade unionist. It is understood that Iranian officials had them under surveillance after some of them met in a Tehran cafe to discuss politics.

The trial, which was to be held in the week of the presidential election, was delayed after Mr Raoof complained about lack of access to his lawyer. The process is continuing behind closed doors without the defendants present.

Updated: July 22, 2021, 12:16 PM